The Types Of People In Drug And Alcohol Treatment

Taking the courageous step to admit into a drug or alcohol treatment program is a monumental occasion that deserves respect and reflection. It can take a lot of effort and energy to come to this decision, which can often create even more questions about the process of entering rehab. Questions about finances, plans for managing employment, and even what you should pack become probing thoughts as you begin your journey to recovery.

Of these questions, a commonly asked one is, who will I be in treatment with? It’s completely normal, and quite understandable, to have this concern. After all, there’s a considerable investment of your time that goes into the decision-making process. Unfortunately, there is still stigmatization of substance use disorders and rehab in general. People’s beliefs that those who struggle with substance use disorders are “criminals”, “junkies”, and “unsafe” are as cruel as they are false.

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The Power Of Group Support

The truth is that the people who are admitted into treatment are other human beings struggling with a substance use disorder. Everyone has their own issues they are working on and the people who decide to seek treatment have the courage to do the work, which is not an easy decision to make. One of the most powerful aspects of a treatment program is being able to do the work needed with a group of likeminded individuals striving to achieve a similar goal. This concept is woven into the very fabric of group therapy and peer support programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Behavioral health professionals have called this concept “universality,” which allows individuals to explore deeper issues in a group of peers with similar experiences. Those with similar experiences can offer a deeper understanding than with those who may not have an understanding of the issues involved when living with an addiction. This process allows many powerful moments to occur in a group setting, providing insight, developing new meanings toward past events, and growing more confident in a life without substances to further self-identified goals.

The Many Types Of People Who Enter Treatment

The answer to who will I be in treatment with is not a straightforward one. The reality is that addiction doesn’t discriminate. While there are certainly groups that have seen higher rates of addiction, mainly due to a history of marginalization and discrimination, anyone can suffer from addiction.

Depending on the type of treatment center, many facilities will have a wide variety of individuals enrolled. Most programs are quite diverse, purposefully having both staff and clients from all walks of life to help build a supportive network of caring individuals. Many treatment centers advertise globally, so some centers will have individuals from different nationalities, cultures, religious backgrounds, political backgrounds, ethnicities, and much more.

The treatment center you decide on attending will be able to provide further details on the overall population they may have there, which can be helpful in deciding on which center to move forward with. For example, if you were to enter a treatment program that was strictly court-ordered individuals, you may find that some patients are less interested in recovery than at a traditional treatment program where the majority are there on their own accord. On the other hand, if you were interested in a program that caters specifically to working professionals seeking recovery, you may find yourself attending a facility with CEOs, CFOs, and other high-level professionals that are also working on developing their sobriety.

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Here are some common communities that are often found in voluntary treatment centers:

Working Professionals

White and blue-collar professionals that are excelling in their careers are not immune to addiction. Many find themselves struggling to balance their work and life issues and turn to substance use to manage. Many people have struggled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and remote work, which has caused a significant rise in this population struggling with substance use. Members of this population often have an easy time forming powerful bonds in treatment and develop long-term friendships as they grow in recovery together.

Healthcare Professionals

There has been a significant increase in the number of healthcare professionals seeking treatment. Burnout and stress continue to play a major role in the daily work they engage in, and as a result, many have turned to drugs or alcohol to cope. From physicians, to nurses, to mental health professionals, it has been a difficult time for many of them. This population has grown immensely since the COVID-19 pandemic, and many treatment programs have begun to develop specialized tracks to help them find recovery and maintain their licenses to practice.

Military Veterans

Both veterans and active-duty military members may be seeking care outside of traditional veterans affairs (VA) programs. Unfortunately, this population also accounts for a large portion of those suffering from substance use disorders for a variety of reasons. Thankfully, there are many excellent programs out there that are designed with veterans in mind and offer specialty tracks to help. Many times, these members help create a strong united community in a treatment program.

LGBTQ+ Community

The LGBTQ+ community has struggled with a disproportionate amount of substance use disorders for many years due to a history of discrimination and marginalization. Many treatment centers have added specialty treatment tracks for those in the LGBTQ+ community to help its members feel safe to engage in the sensitive topics and the experienced culture of substance use.

Medically Disabled

Those who have struggled with a chronic or debilitating condition will sometimes turn to drugs or alcohol in order to self-medicate. Sometimes people with excellent health who experience a tragedy, such as a car accident, find themselves having to utilize narcotics to get through the day due to chronic pain issues. Unfortunately, that strategy results in even more difficult symptoms with addiction, which drives them to seek professional care to help remove the use of narcotic medications from their medical care.

Young Adults

Young adults, usually between the age of 18-25, who are struggling with addiction are often entering treatment for the first time. This population is often made of individuals who have not yet had a chance to fully thrive due to a variety of experiences, challenging home environments, or early childhood influence by substance use. Many in this group are interested in recovery, but may not have a family or support system to return to. This can result in them not knowing what to do. Many in this group find support within other groups and have even demonstrated the behaviors in recovery that motivate other groups to continue their recovery goals as well.

Co-Occurring Disorders

This is not as much a population as it is a common theme in treatment. Most people who struggle with a substance use disorder also struggle with some form of mental health condition, like depression or anxiety. However, some also struggle with more intensive conditions such as bipolar disorder, PTSD, and severe versions of major depressive disorder that can be life endangering without care. Many treatment programs work with medication management to assist with these symptoms and have specialists available to address mental health concerns.

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Keeping An Open Mind

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that treatment isn’t for any one group of people. The various groups of people mentioned above could be your neighbors, friends, or someone you would happily know outside of entering treatment. For most, their substance use has been hidden from view and they are loved by others. That is not to say that they haven’t made poor decisions or performed actions that others may find harmful. Often, it’s these actions and reactions that drive people to seek help in the first place.

It is important to go into treatment with an open mind and to suspend any assumptions or attitudes about others, as most everyone there is trying to get better. The more open you become to recovery, the less difficult it becomes to feel like you belong.

If you have more questions regarding what treatment looks like or who you’ll be in treatment with, contact a treatment provider today.

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Travis Pantiel

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  • Travis Pantiel is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a National Board-Certified Counselor who has practiced in the behavioral health field since 2012. Travis has experience working with a variety of client populations and treatment approaches, with specialized expertise working within the co-occurring disorder treatment space. Travis has experience providing professional training and development for large care organizations as well as providing clinical oversight in various settings. Travis has advanced certifications as a Master Level Certified Addiction Professional as well as Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. Travis received his master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Argosy University and is actively pursuing his doctorate degree in Integrated Behavioral Health at Arizona State University.

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